Te Upokorehe, an iwi in the Bay of Plenty District, is devastated the Waiotahe pipi beds are polluted with e-coli bacteria.
The estuary was once thriving, surrounded by dense bush and had no shortage of seafood. Now however, the Waiotahe catchment has 10 nearby farms which are believed to be polluting the pipi beds, thereby poisoning the shellfish.
The pipi beds have been a source of kaimoana for Upokorehe whānau for more than 100 years.
Upokorehe kaumatua, Wallace Aramoana, spoke to Kawe Kōrero Reporters and says, “We are very sad and very angry. Despite our feelings we are trying to work to resolve the e-coli in our waters. We do know that its cow faeces coming off the 200 hectare farms, 300 hectare farms poisoning the shellfish. In the past, there was only 80 stock, that has increased to around 200 to 270 and as a result that increases the faeces produced on the farms which is washing into our rivers. On many of the fences there are sprinklers, which adds to the problem.”
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board has warned the public not to eat the shellfish from the Waiotahe Estuary.
Aramoana says the iwi voiced their concerns around the health of the pipi beds to a number of local bodies, however their concerns fell on deaf ears.
“We have contacted the Department of Conservation and the local council to give our concerns. However, our concerns and voices are not being heard. They are ignoring what we are saying. But this isn't going to stop us. We are still pushing for this to be resolved because they have the power to fix this issue.
Today we got a phone call to meet up with the scientist and the council, and according to the research, it dates back to January.
This was an astounding findings. We had already told them this was going on, visually seeing the pollution contaminating the water, and its effects on our shellfish. There were lamprey in our waters, now there are none.”
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Health District Board and local iwi will be meeting on Saturday 20 May to resolve the issue.